We compare a big-name money transfer service with a newer digital competitor.
For more than a century, Western Union has been the biggest name in the business of international money transfers. However, newer companies like HiFX are making their mark on the scene, offering more competitive exchange rates and lower fees. Learn how they compare head-to-head.
Western Union and HiFX: How they work
Both options allow for easy online money transfers.
To make an online transfer with Western Union, visit its site and enter how much you’re transferring and to where. Then you’ll see the exchange rate that Western Union currently offers. Western Union will convert and deliver your money to a bank account or for cash pickup at locations worldwide.
To use HiFX, you’ll need to first create a free account as part of your first transfer.
With HiFX, you go to its site and enter the amount you want to send, after which HiFX converts your money and sends it to your recipient’s bank account.
Who offers lower fees?
Determining how much you’ll pay with Western Union can be complicated and depends on the country to which you’re sending money, as well as your delivery and pickup methods. While most fees start at $5, they can soar up to $45 when paying by credit or debit card for cash pickup in certain areas. For high-traffic locations such as India and Mexico, however, some agents offer fee-free transfer options.
HiFX’s fee structure if far more transparent: For all transfers below $5,000, HiFX charges a $5 fee, and you’ll pay no fee for transfers of $5,000 or more.
Although Western Union and HiFX offer similar base fees, HiFX edges out the competition thanks to its clear and simple fee structure, as well as the extra savings it offers when transferring a larger amount of money.
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Who offers better exchange rates?
To understand who offers better exchange rates, you’ll need to first look at the mid-market rate. This is the true exchange rate that averages the buying and selling rate of a global currency — and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves.
Let’s look at the rates that Western Union and HiFX offer compared to the mid-market rate.
Depending on the country you’re sending money to, a typical exchange rate at Western Union could be up to 6% above the mid-market rate. If you’re sending a large amount overseas, this could mean hundreds of dollars that goes straight into Western Union’s pocket.
We’ll use the example of a transfer to Japanese yen (JPY):
- If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 113.28 JPY
- Western Union’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 108.86 JPY
HiFX tends to keep its exchange rates typically within 0.4% of the mid-market rate.
In other words:
- If you’re sending money to Japan and the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0113.28 JPY
- HiFX’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 112.76 JPY.
Delivery speed varies with transfer options. At an agent location or by phone, your transfer could be delivered in minutes (at higher costs). Your cheapest options could take five days or longer, depending on the country.
HiFX recommends allowing up to three business days for it to receive your money. You should also allow up to four business days for your transfer to be cleared by your recipient’s bank.
Winner: Western Union
Who offers more options?
|Payment Methods||Minimum and maximum transfers||Delivery methods||Transfer speeds||Countries and currencies|
|Western Union||Bank account, credit or debit card, cash||$1 minimum; maximum varies by method and payment||Bank transfer, cash pickup, e-wallet||Varies from minutes to 5+ days||200+ countries|
|HiFX||Bank transfer, credit or debit card||$50 minimum; no maximum||Bank transfer||1–7 business days||19 currencies (online); 800+ currencies (phone); all currencies (regular transfers)|
Offering competitive exchange rates and simple low (or no) transfer fees, HiFX is a deal that’s hard to beat. Unless you’re looking for an instant transfer (which costs extra with Western Union), HiFX is the clear winner.
Ultimately, however, you’ll want to compare your options to find the service that best fits your individual needs. Imagine you want to send $2,000 to your brother, who has recently moved to Japan. Here’s what you’d pay for an online bank transfer with Western Union and HiFX. Although Western Union offers a fee-free transfer for this exchange, you’ll have to pay $60 if you want to speed up the delivery to four business days. Perhaps even more important: With HiFX, your brother can receive 7,225 more yen — about $65.
Sending $2,000 to Japan
Western Union HiFX Transfer fee $0 $5 Exchange rate 1 USD = 108.86 JPY 1 USD = 112.76 JPY Transfer speed 7 business days 1–7 business days Total received 217,720 JPY 224,945 JPY
Imagine you want to send $2,000 to your brother, who has recently moved to Japan. Here’s what you’d pay for an online bank transfer with Western Union and HiFX.
Although Western Union offers a fee-free transfer for this exchange, you’ll have to pay $60 if you want to speed up the delivery to four business days. Perhaps even more important: With HiFX, your brother can receive 7,225 more yen — about $65.